An ultraviolet disinfection system is made of various components, which are detailed below:

Main components of a UV system

There are various UV disinfection systems on the market. Whether they are related to commercial, industrial, or domestic uses, they are all made up of the same general components. The four major ones are:

These elements are the core of all UV systems, but there are other optional parts such as sensors, solenoid valves…

UV chamber or reactor

There are one or more UV lamps, protected by their quartz sleeves. Each reactor has an inlet and an outlet, to be connected to the water system. A UV reactor is usually made of stainless steel, but other materials can be used such as HDPE when salt or corrosive water has to be disinfected. There are different types of reactors for specific use such as sterilization. Based on the model and the flow rate the system is intended to supply, it comes with different orifice sizes.

UV lamp

UV lamps can generate UV-C rays with wavelengths between 100 and 400 nm. We can distinguish between low and medium pressure lamps. The “low pressure” lamps are monochromatic lamps that emit mainly at one wavelength: 254 nm. Medium pressure” lamps have a higher spectrum. Their selection is done according to the requirements of the application and the disinfection.

  • Standard low pressure UV lamps: they are most commonly used in applications where the flow rates are lower (in a residential home for example) and where exposure times can be longer. These lamps are less expensive to replace and, in general, the initial cost of the equipment is also much lower.
  • High power (HO) low pressure lamps. They are recommended when:
    • Space is reduced, as they are more compact than standard lamp reactors
    • UV dosages are strong.
    • High processing rates are required.
  • Low pressure amalgam lamps: they use a mercury amalgam alloy to control the vapor pressure. Through a slightly different process than other lamps, they can produce up to three times the UV-C power of a standard low pressure lamp of the same length. They are mostly used in more commercial applications or for regulatory requirements, depending on the type of microbiological contamination to be treated.
  • Medium pressure lamps: they produce a wider spectrum of UVC (from 200 to 400 nm) and have a much higher power than low pressure lamps. Medium-pressure lamp reactors are also significantly more compact, which is a clear advantage for high flow rates compared to low-pressure UVC systems. However, compared to low pressure lamps, medium pressure lamps are not particularly good producers of useful germicidal wavelengths. Medium pressure lamps usually convert as little as 10% of their input power into usable UV-C, while low pressure amalgam lamps can be up to 40% efficient.

For the glass that constitutes the structure of the lamp, different types exist on the market:

  • Smooth glass, which is less expensive, but will fade over time, reducing its UVC transmission efficiency.
  • quartz glass, harder and less likely to break

Both glass types are often treated to help increase their UV-C transmission.

Low pressure lamps generally have a lifespan up to 2 years. Thanks to their high electrical efficiency, the market share of “low pressure-high intensity” amalgam lamps has increased considerably in recent years. Medium pressure lamps are often used in industry because they produce very intense radiation sources.

Important: To be environmentally friendly, lamps must be recycled. The supplier usually takes care of this.

It is a long cylindrical tube of quartz glass, used to protect the lamp. The UV light is transmitted into the water through this tube. To avoid minerals and other contaminants clogging the tube, cleaning is necessary when the lamp is changed. Some reactors are equipped with an automatic cleaning system, recommended for waters with high transmittance.

Control unit

This component, known as the electrical cabinet, controls the electrical power of the lamp and powers it to produce UVC light. Some suppliers only have a simple control board that fits on the end of the lamp, when it comes to small reactors. For larger reactors, the control unit may include lamp change timers, low UV alarms, or alarm lights to indicate any system malfunction. Therefore, these units vary in complexity, but also in size.

All UV systems are built in a way that all parts work together as a complete functional system. For this reason, it is important to ensure that the right components are used for the system being used when replacing any of the elements. Therefore, always use original equipment for maintenance.

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